Posts Tagged: Jenny Han

HFN high-school romance

YA romances I’ve loved this year:

cover of I Believe in a Thing Called Love with smiling girl in miniskirt

I Believe in a Thing Called Love, by Maurene Goo

cover of When Dimple Met RIshi, closeup of smiling girl drinking iced coffee

When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon

cover of Always and Forever, Lara Jean, with girl at dressing table

Always and Forever, Lara Jean, by Jenny Han

(although actually, I liked the first book of the trilogy, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, best.)

I have to admit that from my middle-aged perspective I’m a little unsure how to read romances set in the senior year of high school or summer between high school and college. Maybe in general I’m not as practiced at HFN (happy for now) endings in romance as at HEA (happy ever after), but I think the books share my unsureness at least a little. Dimple and Rishi had some Meant To Be / Eternally cues and that was okay. Always and Forever framed it as “don’t let the world tell you your romance is doomed,” and… that worked as far as it went? But I keep having to stuff down my opinion that taking high-school romance to college usually doesn’t work out well. (Discussing I Believe in a Thing Called Love‘s solution would be spoilery.)

Miscellaneous notes: I Believe in a Thing Called Love has made me want to watch so, so many more K-dramas. (Not a high bar, Mystery Queen is the only one I’ve seen so far. I loved it.) And shooting has started for the movie version of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before!

The Secret Life of Book Lists

My list of books read in 2015, with a line or three about each. And even more briefly, here are my ten best for the year, which I added to my LibraryThing archive:

    • Bright Morning, by Margery Williams Bianco. Her 1939 YA Other People’s Houses was also good.
    • Kiss the Girl, by Melissa Brayden. Also enjoyed Waiting in the Wings and Just Three Words, and successfully poked the library to acquire the next one.
    • Landing, by Emma Donoghue. Audiobook.
    • Earth Girl, Earth Star, and Earth Flight, by Janet Edwards.
    • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler. Audiobook.
    • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han. (Sadly, the sequel had only a fraction of its charm.)
    • Lulu and the Hedgehog in the Rain, by Hilary McKay. I’ve read them all (I think), but this one was special because of the community organizing!
    • Stuff Matters, by Mark Miodownik. Nonfiction (materials science).
    • The Turtle of Oman, by Naomi Shihab Nye.
    • The Martian, by Andy Weir.

I read an interview with Meryl Streep once– I think maybe it was a Bob Greene column?– in which she said all her movies were secretly home movies. She’d watch a scene from Kramer v. Kramer and remember what her kid was up to that week, or who she’d been hanging out with, and all the things that were going on when the scene was filmed.

My book lists are like that for me. I’ll look at So You Want to Be a Wizard and remember how excited KP was to hear I was reading it, and how she visited Portland later in the year and presented me with the sequels after one of her many trips to Powell’s Books. And how Sanguinity and I went up to Olympia to dogsit for Sara and crew, and they had a copy on their shelves, so I was reading it in the backyard while Sang designated the dogs Horrible Thing One…

Sanguinity pointing at Molly

and Horrible Thing Two…

Sanguinity pointing at Beezy

and gave them stern looks…

Sanguinity considering Molly

…that didn’t fool them one bit.

Sanguinity kissing a happy Molly's head

 

Or how I read Gone Crazy in Alabama in Wyoming, decompressing on a sunny morning at my friend Jenny’s house after she left for work.

Some books have webs of people associated with them– I decided to read The Martian because every single member of the Maki family liked it, and then my co-worker lent me a copy from the first meeting of her new book club, and then I gave a copy to my father-in-law that he binge-read even though he hardly ever reads fiction.

Then there are all the online discussions like the one about The Hired Girland audiobooks whose performances and the setting I heard them in are inextricable from the text. (Tiny Pretty Things while striding home in the dark amidst headlights and big trees and rain!)

It’s impossible to know all that’s coded into anyone’s book list but my own, but I still like reading other people’s. Here’s hoping for rich secret home movies for us all in 2016.

 

Batman, cupcake reading, trees

The middle day of a three-day weekend is a beautiful thing. Sanguinity and I went to our favorite coffee shop and ate this:
breakfast sandwich and lunch special from Pieper Cafe
and I drew Batman (a bit Loki-ish now that I think of it):
Batman as drawn by Holly in a spiral notebook
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Last week I started reading Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and did not want to stop til it was (sadly) over! (But there’s going to be a sequel!) It has a bit of a Little Women vibe, with three close sisters and the boy next door. It’s about family and friendship as well as romance, and the characters were likeable, good kids just trying to figure stuff out. Even the mean girl was not that mean and had an understandable motivation based on the characters’ past interactions. It’s the kind of sweet comfort reading I call a cupcake, light and well written.

I was a little taken aback at how much of my pleasurable sigh as I got into this book was based on the setting of universal affluence. I mean, starting on page two, the characters are talking about a possible trip to Paris over spring break. And when they decorate their Christmas tree, it’s “We run out of lights, so Daddy goes to buy more at the store.” (I grew up middle class, but you unwind the lights and redo them with more space between the rows!) It’s not a gossip-girl type thing where conspicuous wealth and glamour are what the book’s offering; it’s a shiny, normalized wealth where teenagers have cars and no one thinks twice about ordering pizza delivery once a week. I love it when books show working-class families (Ramona and her Father, Please Ignore Vera Dietz), but apparently I love this too, in a different way. Maybe it’s nostalgia for Nancy Drew and her roadster, or the baby-sitters in Stoneybrook? Some kind of relaxing escapism going on.

At the same time, I happened to have also just started Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life in a desultory way. (It’s my backup bus book, in case I finish my book on the bus, or don’t feel like reading my regular bus book. Not an exalted position in my book hierarchy.) Weirdly, the unremarked-on affluence in that book made me grouchy and resentful! She buys a pricey chaise longue “covered in an antique Tibetan blanket” because why? Because “although I have an office in my home, it had grown stale. My desk was piled high with papers, mail, and various forms that had nothing to do with my writing life.” A few pages later, she’s like, “I can’t imagine what my UPS delivery guy thinks when I crack open the door to sign for a package. There’s that weird lady again.” Um, he thinks you don’t have to go to a job. Right? By this time I was pretty much hate-reading (“On my desk, propped between two Buddha-head bookends,” grrrr), until on page 47 I came to: “my friend Peter Cameron.” What? Really? Well. Just in case they really are friends and I am missing something, I will quit with the judgey and keep reading to learn something. I’ll let you know.
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Yesterday Sanguinity and I went on a Heritage Tree Walk down in Sellwood. The rain was coming down like it meant business, but there were still about a dozen of us there, led by an arborist and an AmeriCorps volunteer and someone from the city’s street tree program. We saw a gorgeous pair of American Chestnuts that escaped the blight, a big Oregon white oak, and an amazing huge European Copper Beech in a big yard. But one of the coolest things was when one of the leaders started measuring the trees that were on public property or in the planting strip between sidewalk and street with a diameter tape!
diameter tape for measuring trees
It’s a cloth tape with a little crank for winding it up again after use, and each “inch” on the tape is actually 3.14 (or so) inches long. So you measure around the tree and the number on the tape is the diameter. I wish every kid learning about pi and circles could play with one, it is so pleasingly concrete.

At the end of class we got a booklet with maps and descriptions of every heritage tree in Portland. And an application in the back in case you know a tree you think should be designated. (They’re pretty choosy, accepting only about 25% of applicants.) So we are equipped for a project if we ever want to go visit them all. :)